Your health should not have to wait in line to get checked up. How often do you find yourself going back and forth between your family physician, then to the laboratory for a blood test, and back to your doctor for another check up? Not to mention waiting in the dreary room even though you had your appointment booked days in advance. The amount of hours this process takes eventually leads people to postpone their health when in fact it should have been taken care of immediately.
Well, that is where the savior concept of blockchain comes in, and it’s crucial for everyone to understand what is up-and-coming. Before any discussion can be held on the application of blockchain, we must have a clear definition of what blockchain is and how this concept applies to your healthcare needs.
An Easy Understanding of Blockchain for Beginners
In the past several months, recent news articles have been hyping up the legitimacy of applying blockchain methods to other industries, and one of biggest areas is the Healthcare Information Technology (IT) sector. The blockchain is the new foundation of the Internet for over a decade. It derived from the idea of bitcoin, which is a digital currency method that has close to $112 billion in value in the United States. Now, the tech community has expanded the value of economic transactions that are made virtually. Basically, blockchain has become the foundation of the new type of Internet, and it’s a revolution for incorruption and systemic efficiency.
The blockchain is simply another type of cryptocurrency such as the bitcoin. It is like a public ledger system where individuals can record their transactions; in regards to healthcare, these transactions are datasets such as blood tests, surgeries, implants, insurance information, and more. Each transaction is a “block” (hence the title of blockchain) and the blocks are added to other existing blocks until it creates a “chain”. Once each block is verified and approved, it is added to the public log and remains permanent.
If you still don’t know how it works, that’s okay. You actually don’t need to know the specific technicalities of how it works to use it, just like the Internet.
“Basically, blockchain has become the foundation of the new type of Internet, and it’s a revolution for incorruption and systemic efficiency.”
Let’s put this concept from the perspective of a NBA basketball game. There are generally two teams, a scorekeeper, and a referee. All players must unanimously agree on the rules beforehand so that no one is cheating or making foul plays. Fans are watching the game and can help maintain the system to keep it in check.
Analogous to blockchain, each block is the score and all the fans and spectators help keep them in check of the rules. To reward those who help keep accurate scores, now fans can get rewarded for keeping the system updated and in check. Whoever is the first to correctly verify and approve the score (or “block”) will get rewarded for contributing to the public log system. Now, even though the fans are not the actual million dollar basketball players, they have the opportunity to gain benefits for their contribution to the overall score.
Same as the cryptocurrency, users who are not even involved in the transactions but also part of the blockchain node also keeps track of transactions as well and record their own blocks. The way logs across the system remain exact copies of each other as new blocks are updated and added is through solving a sort of computational math puzzle.
The Impact of Blockchain on Healthcare
The impact of blockchain could potentially have on the healthcare sector are numerous. It has a high potential to generate easier access and sharing of information for healthcare records. More time will be saved with the accessibility to track and ship for supply chains. Blockchains can also aid in the medical recording by providing an immutable medical record that cannot be changed, aiding in any legal cases in which an untampered medical record is needed. Patient records can be consolidated into a single record; lab results, treatments, disease registries, treatments, etc. can all be compounded together to give a holistic view of patient history so that providers can plan better strategies of healthcare. You will no longer find yourself wasting time back and forth between each lab and all your data will be in one safe place.
List of blockchain benefits:
- Patient data sharing issues can also be addressed across state borders, where regulations regarding patient privacy and consent vary from state to state.
- Permission checking will keep patient data secure while granting easy information access for other permitted parties to view. It can also assist in settling payments between insurance providers, hospitals, and patients.
- Patients can be also incentivized and rewarded from following a care plan, following appointments, and staying healthy through the blockchain system.
- Patients may also be rewarded for sharing their data with clinical trials and research.
The Reality of Blockchain
Blockchain definitely has its ups, but those come with its downsides. It is not designed for the use of analytics. Blockchains has issues with transactional performance; for example, bitcoin runs at around 7 transactions per second. To put in an easier context to understand, 7 transactions is almost nothing compared to something like VISA, where around 24,000 transactions are recorded per second! It has problems with large data storage over time and scalability issues. Because the logs have to be recorded, it can lead to large numbers of information that gets repossessed, leading to high inefficiency costs. Greater research is still ongoing to optimize data transfer within blockchain.
If the problems currently facing blockchain can be resolved, then we may be able to enjoy faster and more efficient healthcare in the future. There wouldn’t be a need to wait in line at the doctor’s office while the office workers call various providers and to see if you are qualified to receive care. Doctors would be able to streamline your personal healthcare plans by having access to your past healthcare plans and plan accordingly to how different methods have worked and what new steps could be taken. You can be more involved in your own health by having up-to-date biometrics data, monitoring your own progress, and keeping up a routine of visiting your healthcare provider on a regular basis.
5 Reasons Virtual Reality is Changing the Game of Medicine
Virtual reality can truly transport you to a different world. As many people have reported the first time they try out a headset, the experience is incredibly lifelike. Virtual reality today is producing not only more advanced video games that evoke real emotion in people but a solution for the healthcare industry too. Virtual reality is enhancing the patient experience to the process of rehabilitation. Many VR developers including Samsung have stepped up to produce technology over the last decade that is built with patient experience in mind.
VR applications in the medical field are almost limitless at this point. VR technology is working to deliver an immediate benefit in these five sectors of health care:
- Training: VR programs have been introduced for clinical skills training support. Medical students can complete surgical skill training in the form of simulations. Doctors can complete full procedures in VR without risking patient health and feel more confident in their abilities going into a real procedure having done the simulation.
- Prevention: VR experiences for promoting wellness, managing stress and treating addictive behavior are all occurring today. Specific programs for helping people to manage stress and coping their addiction are working to improve the patient in stressful situations.
- Adherence during training: improving patient experience through various VR training and game-like features is helping medical facilities to engage with patients during the treatment process. This can lead to better injury recovery and more.
- Pain management: VR distraction experiences are now being used as an alternative to painkillers. These solutions can reduce the overall dosage of painkillers that are required during specific procedures, and they can even eliminate the use of painkillers in situations such as dressing burns and more.
- Telemedicine: standalone VR systems and cell phone-based systems can be of use for providing health care access remotely. Connecting with physicians through VR could enhance chronic disease management and help physicians support improved home diagnosis and recovery.
VR applications in healthcare can have almost limitless possibilities such as overcoming phobias in mental health conditions, fulfilling the dying wishes of the palliative care patient, easing stress during procedures like vaccinations and continuing to provide support as an alternative to painkillers.
Many manufacturers are working on dropping the price of their headset substantially. For medical use, there are headsets now available for less than $100 that can be used with most smartphone devices. As a long-term strategy, VR is still an industry that is mostly consumer driven, but as more developers step forward and continue producing products for medical use, we may see more hospitals continuing to implement this technology for their patients.
As more people have access to this technology at home, it could also improve the availability of applications that they could access on their smartphones or VR devices. Patients both in medical facilities and at home will be able to take advantage of the therapeutic effects of this fantastic technology as long as developers keep scaling up their efforts.
The Connection between Smartphones and Atrial Fibrillation Detection
After seven years of extensive research and development, a new app created at Turku University, Finland recently revealed that it could detect atrial fibrillation without the use of additional equipment. The phone application has the possibility to save lives across the globe because timely diagnosis of the atrial fibrillation is vital in stroke prevention. This joint research of Turku University & the Turku Heart Centre has studied 300 patients having heart-related issues; half of them were having atrial fibrillation. And, the researchers also identified the patients having atrial fibrillation from another group with the smart mobile. The phone app, which was designed at Turku University, had detected which group members had atrial fibrillation, that too with a 96% accuracy with few false positives.
Members of the study included those who had ventricular extrasystole, heart failure, and coronary disease. With a wide spectrum of heart conditions, the research at the University of Turku was conducted as blind research, meaning that the hospital sent measurements of data for conducting analysis even without any additional information of specific patient conditions. The complete analyses were then sent back to the University of Turku hospital to further examine the reliability.
Is Atrial Fibrillation always Detected at the Doctor’s Office?
No, atrial fibrillation is not always detected at the doctors office, even if it is in its intermittent stages. Proper detection of atrial fibrillation has been a pertinent challenge in medicine due to its affordability constraints.
During the seven year period, the researchers decided to check whether it’s possible for them to detect the atrial fibrillation from micro movements in the chest along with accelerometers. In the year 2017 when the research was completed, they ascertained that it is quite possible. This means that everyone who owns smartphones has the potential to detect atrial fibrillation, as most smartphones have an accelerometer.
When will we see the App in the Market?
The researchers aim to make this app available for everyone relatively soon and believe that the
Blockchain Makes Strides in Ensuring Data Validity
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco have made a proof-of-concept technique to ensure the integrity of data in different clinical trials utilizing blockchain. Currently, this system creates the immutable audit
Blockchain technology utilizes the old computer science method called hashing. Hashing creates a rare digital signature for particular blocks of data. These hashes accumulate as new data is changed or entered, and as a result, information blocks build on top of one another sequentially. The resulting “blockchain” makes one audit trail for the regulators, which is easy to validate and decipher, without even looking at the data.
For example, Daniel Wong is a Ph.D. student in Biological & Medical Informatics at the University of California, San Francisco. He has built this type of system to operate through the web portal. As data is changed or entered within the given trial, the information about the participants, timestamp, receiver, the sender, and file attachments with data accumulate together with the hash from the last data block. While most blockchain applications are decentralized, this new clinical trial prototype relies on containing the regulator along with centralized authority. This technique is used by organizations such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Moreover, data that includes adverse events will be reported to a regulatory agency, which will cause an increase in the efficiency and safety of the clinical trials. While the older version of blockchain created allowances for the data entry or some other mistakes to be error-free, new data will be appended to an existing chain in this decentralized form of blockchain, without having to remove existing information. Now more than ever, it will be extremely clear if data has been corrupted or altered to affect the results of the trial.
In conclusion, blockchain technology might enable trials to be examined under some challenging conditions and will open doors to data exchanges which are secure, efficient, and transparent for the researchers as well as the public. Ultimately, a decentralized version of blockchain has the ability to impact not just researchers but also the public as a whole.
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